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It’s a Navy Lark!

The former Portuguese Head of State, Ramalho Eanes said today that the case of the 13 soldiers who refused to board the ship Mondego, left him “disgusted.” And refused to comment further…..However! He did go on to clarify his point.

“Obviously I have an opinion and I must say that all this deeply displeased me, as a military man and as a citizen. But I will not replace those who, in the State, have the responsibility to comment on this issue and even enlighten the Portuguese about what is happening,” said General Ramalho Eanes in Castelo Branco.

The Chief of Staff of the Navy, Admiral Gouveia e Melo, in statements on Thursday in the Port of Funchal, criticised those who disobeyed the orders, considering that the case is of “a very great gravity” and that the “Navy can not forget, ignore or forgive acts of indiscipline.” Remember, these crew members refused to board because they considered the ship ‘unseaworthy.’

The former President of the Republic spoke to journalists at the end of a tribute ceremony that the Chamber of Castelo Branco gave him, today, as part of the celebrations of the 252nd anniversary of the city, with the attribution of his name to an avenue of the city.

“I said that when I refused to be promoted in 2000 it was because I understood that it should not be an element of disturbance of the Armed Forces. I will not, of course, go beyond that, not to say anything about that issue. I understand that the military institution, the Minister of Defence, and the President of the Republic should be able to solve the problem competently.”

Despite protestations from General Ramalho Eanes, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has decided to suspend the hearing of the 13 military personnel who refused to board the ship Mondego, by the decision of the prosecutor to analyse the process in more detail. 

Paulo Graça, one of the two lawyers defending the sccused announced:

“By determination of the lady prosecutor of the 10th section of the DIAP was the diligence given without effect. The information we have is that the Public Prosecutor’s Office is analysing the situation. ”

Paulo Graça said that the 13 military personnel were not made defendants, nor was a new deadline established for hearing, reiterating that the “Public Prosecutor’s Office is analysing the situation and ordered that diligence be given without effect.”

“It is entirely normal for the prosecutor, as an independent magistrate to want to determine the facts before proceeding.

Furthermore, the defence lawyers considered today that the disciplinary process in the Navy is “wounded to death,” accusing the Chief of Staff of the Navy of being “arrogant and discriminatory.”

“When the appellate authority, in disciplinary terms, publicly takes a position, evidently … this disciplinary process is wounded to death, because no Naval officer will dare to contradict, in his conclusions of this disciplinary process, the conclusions that the Admiral has already advanced,” said lawyer Garcia Pereira, who represents the accused.

At the entrance to the premises of the Military Judicial Police in Lisbon, near the headquarters building of the Ministry of Defense, Garcia Pereira criticised the public position taken by the Chief of Staff of the Navy, Gouveia e Melo, on the Mondego case, and stressed that there is in Portugal the “principle of the presumption of innocence,” stating that “things have to be done within the rules.”

For the lawyer, whose evidence was heard yesterday by the Judicial Military Police -PJM, “it is intolerable” that “men who are proud of the uniform they wear, who have a distinguished service record” and who have received praise for their dedication to service, have been “treated miserably, with an arrogant, discriminatory, vexatious and humiliating attitude by the head of the Navy.

Not only have the personnel been treated badly, the lawyers are also concerned that Naval inspectors, working alone, started repairing the ship thus erasing evidence of degradation and poor serviceability, thus weakening the lawyer’s evidence.

This could be further backed up by the sudden arrival of a transport aircraft carrying essential spares. However, the Navy insist that all warships use complex out of date equipment and can sail whether they have one engine or two, faulty electrical generators, leak, and contain fire hazards!

Samantha Gannon

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Photo: JM

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